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Inside the Points - Week 5
By Fritz Schlottman
October 3, 2003
 

This is a weekly view of the upcoming games considering the perspective of the sportsbooks to see how their information about teams and trends can be relevant to your fantasy football team. There are probably a few of you who feel that the gaming industry should give to you for a change. This view is interesting and different from fantasy football since it considers the teams and games as a whole first considering trends and motivations and only later the players – almost the exact opposite from when you decide your weekly starting players.

If you would like a detailed introduction to this new weekly feature at The Huddle please click here.

Tennessee (3-1) at New England (2-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 40

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =41
NE 21, TEN 20

Trends
        TEN     NE  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/16/2002 NE 7 TEN 24 365 238 127 176 56 120

Motivation
Vegas thinks the Patriots have enough to get by the Titans this week. Rumors continue to circulate that QB Tom Brady is in far worse shape than the Patriots are willing to admit. The general public is very aware of all of New England's injury problems on defense and even QB Tom Brady's shoulder and elbow injuries. However, some of the Patriots' younger players are filling in on defense quite nicely. CB Ty Law and LB Willie McGinest are expected to play.

The Patriots should be motivated after the embarrassing loss to the Titans on Monday night last year. New England had a pretty good effort against Washington last week, but they couldn't overcome their turnovers.

The Titans have their own injury problems. S Tank Williams has a shoulder separation, DT Albert Haynesworth will miss this game, and LB Peter Sirmon won't play. The wise guy's think these losses are just as important as New England's injuries. Tennessee has won 13 of its last 15 regular season tests, including a 24-7 home win over the Pats last season. They have also won six of their last eight on the road.

Cincinnati (1-3) at Buffalo (2-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 40

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =38
BUF 21, CIN 17

Trends
        CIN     BUF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/29/2002 CIN 9 BUF 27 317 84 233 324 99 225

Motivation
Buffalo LB Takeo Spikes returns to Cincinnati.

Opinion
The handicapper's think this will be a low scoring game. Bills Coach Greg Williams spent this week in practice trying to find his offense. Buffalo looked like a Super Bowl threat the first two weeks of the season after impressive wins over the Pats and Jags when it scored 69 points. However, the last two weeks the Bills looked overrated during consecutive losses to Miami and Philadelphia when they scored a total of 20 points.

Buffalo's defense is better than it's shown the past two weeks when the Dolphins and the Eagles pounded the ball at them. As their free agents (S Lawyer Milloy, LB Takeo Spikes, DT Sam Adams, etc.) get more comfortable with their teammates and the system, they should only improve. Buffalo has outscored it opponents 95-57 and they give up just 14 points per game.

The Bengals are better this year. Twenty-four of their players from last year's squad are no longer with the team. Of the 24, only four are playing as regulars in the NFL. This is a completely different team. Setting aside the disaster in their first game against the Broncos, the Bengals have played three pretty good offenses in Cleveland, Oakland, and Pittsburgh. Against these three teams, they are giving up just 18 points per game. The Bills are struggling to run the ball, Cincinnati's weakness, and the Bengals' secondary should be able to slow down the Bills passing game enough to keep this game close.

Miami (2-1) at New York Giants (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 38

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 37
MIA 20, NYG 17

Trends
No recent regular season meetings between these teams.
Under is 25 of Miami's last 34 games outside their division.
Under is 13 of 16 after a Giants bye week. However, over 's 8 of the last 9 when the Giants face the AFC.

Motivation
Both teams are 2-1, tied for the lead in their division, and coming off a bye week.

Opinion
There's good news and bad news from the Giants camp. They enjoyed their week off but now they have to return to play the surging Dolphins. Vegas has noticed that New York is one of the worst teams in the NFL following a bye, dropping 11 of 15 and losing six of its last seven. Miami has problems of its own. The Dolphins have lost eight of their last nine versus NFC competition, including four in a row. The Giants, on the other hand, have kept it close against clubs from the AFC-East.

New York's weakness has been their secondary. Miami's offensive strength has been running the ball. Neither team matches up really well against the other. This may explain the sportsbooks' lack of interest in this game. There's a lot of uncertainty to whether the Dolphins can run Ricky Williams 30 times against New York's run defense and be successful. On the other hand, no one around here trusts that Miami's passing game can take advantage of the Giants' problems in the secondary. The most likely result is a draw between the two squads and another close game for New York.

Seattle (3-0) at Green Bay (2-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 45

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 47
SEA 27, GB 20

Trends
No recent regular season meetings between these teams.

Motivation
Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren, defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, and QB Matt Hasselbeck return to Green Bay. Ironically, the last time Holmgren played the Packers, he beat the then Ray Rhodes coached team 27-7.

Opinion
The wise guys favor the Seahawks in this game. Looking at Green Bay, they really haven't beaten anyone, just the Bears and the Lions and they've lost to the Cardinals and the Vikings. Their defense just isn't playing well. The Bears were able to run on the Packers on Monday night, something they haven't done so far this season. Chicago had 181 yards of rushing.

Green Bay begins a tough three game stretch. They have a short week this week; they then host Kansas City, before they go on the road to St. Louis.

The Packers running game is they key to this game. The sportsbooks don't think RB Ahman Green will be able to run the ball against the Seahawks' defense. When Green Bay can't run, QB Brett Favre forces the ball to try and make plays. The problem is that he doesn't have the weapons he used to. Seattle is living on turnovers; they are number one in the league in this category. Favre may throw two or more interceptions in this game, setting up a defensive touchdown or a very short field for the Seahawks.

Oakland (1-3) at Chicago (0-3)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 42.5

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =37
OAK 21, CHI 16

Trends
No recent regular season meetings between these teams.

Motivation
Oakland comes in on a high after a huge come from behind victory against the Chargers gave them new life this season. The Bears were dreadful again in their loss to the Packers.

Opinion
No love for this game at all in Vegas. The situation favors the Bears, as the Raiders will expect to come in and take Chicago to the woodshed like every other team has this season. You couldn't blame them for looking past the Bears this week. On the other hand, no handicapper in his or her right mind is going to put money on Chicago right now. They're no guarantee to score against anyone. The sportsbooks think Chicago's best chance in this game is to establish a running game and keep the Raiders offense off the field. That may work to a degree, as Oakland was dreadful against the Chargers rushing attack last Sunday and Bears RB Anthony Thomas showed something in the game against the Packers.

New Orleans (1-3) at Carolina (3-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 38

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 30
CAR 20, NO 10

Trends
        NO     CAR  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/29/2002 CAR 10 NO 6 244 125 119 273 85 188
11/10/2002 NO 34 CAR 24 345 97 248 396 100 296
12/2/2001 CAR 23 NO 27 432 125 307 150 49 101
10/14/2001 NO 27 CAR 25 358 198 160 218 34 184
11/12/2000 NO 20 CAR 10 322 157 165 311 53 258
10/15/2000 CAR 6 NO 24 397 215 182 141 10 131

Motivation
The Saints just want to win a game and not lose any more players, while the Panther hope to keep their perfect season alive against their divisional rivals.

Opinion
New Orleans has played very well in this series, winning five of the last six games. Of course, they probably didn't have the injury problems they again face this week.

The handicappers are very leery of this game. The series history is clearly on the side of New Orleans, and yet they're in such disarray on both sides of the ball that it's tempting to look past that history. The Saints have enough weapons remaining on offense that they could cause the Panthers trouble, and yet they don't have enough defense to prevent Carolina from grinding out first downs on the ground. Time of possession could be very one-sided in this game. When New Orleans does well, this is a high-scoring series. When the Panthers win, it's a defensive battle. The books are expecting a Carolina victory in a low scoring game.

Minnesota (4-0) at Atlanta (1-3)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 44
MIN 31, ATL 13

Trends
     

MIN

     

ATL

 

Date

Away

Home

Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/1/2002

ATL 30

MIN 24

369 139 230 379 227 152

Motivation
The Vikings are 4-0 and coming off a big win at home against the 49ers. The Falcons got creamed again last Sunday and have struggled both offensively and on the defensive side of the ball.

Opinion
The handicappers are still licking their wounds after getting behind Atlanta last week. To their surprise, the Falcons continued their collapse on both sides of the ball. The Falcons have scored just two touchdowns in their last 35 possessions. Atlanta, and Las Vegas, just can't wait to get QB Michael Vick back into the line-up.

The Vikings, on the other hand, may be flat this week. They're coming off the 28 point drubbing of the 49ers in the Metrodome and they may be looking past the struggling Falcons. Vegas thinks the Vikings still have enough on both sides of the ball to win, but it may be a little closer game than many think.

Denver (4-0) at Kansas City (4-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 45.5

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 47
KC 27, DEN 20

Trends
       

DEN

   

KC

 

Date

Away

Home

Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/15/2002

KC 24

DEN 31

482 197 285 494 185 309
10/20/2002

DEN 37

KC 34

507 141 366 305 162 143
12/16/2001

DEN 23

KC 26

335 94 241 396 137 259
10/7/2001

KC 6

DEN 20

300 197 103 297 42 255
12/17/2000

DEN 7

KC 20

291 66 225 424 264 160
9/24/2000

KC 23

DEN 22

342 145 197 294 49 245

RB Priest Holmes had 151 total yards and three touchdowns in last year's game at Arrowhead.
RB Clinton Portis had 205 yards and four TDs in the game in Denver.

Motivation
Both teams were in look ahead games last week and did well to win. The Chiefs got by on another kick return for a touchdown and Denver slumbered through their game against Detroit and had to make some plays on defense to win that game.

Opinion
Vegas is waiting on word on the health of Denver RB Clinton Portis. He's clearly better than any of the other backs on the Denver roster. Anderson is a quality runningback, but Portis is their only RB with the ability to break a five or eight yard gain into a 40-yard gain. If he can't play, the Chiefs have a big advantage.

Teams are now zeroing on Portis. It seems that when you pop him, something breaks. Vegas is beginning to thinks Portis may be the next Fred Taylor.

The Chiefs have played the harder schedule, and they've proven they can win a tough game. Denver haven't really played a quality opponent yet, and haven't been tested. The handicappers still question QB Jake Plummer's ability when he has to win a ball game with his arm.

The handicappers think this will be a very high scoring game. Both teams have great running games, pretty good passing attacks, and their defenses may get worn down. Kansas City's special teams play and home field advantage should carry them to victory in the end.

Arizona (1-3) at Dallas (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =40
DAL 27, ARI 10

Trends
        ARI     DAL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
8/9/2003 DAL 0 ARI 13 191 92 99 115 25 90
10/20/2002 DAL 6 ARI 9 380 152 228 342 148 194
12/23/2001 DAL 10 ARI 17 209 75 134 343 174 169
10/28/2001 ARI 3 DAL 17 292 75 217 225 145 80
10/22/2000 ARI 7 DAL 48 276 109 167 347 200 147
9/10/2000 DAL 31 ARI 32 322 98 224 330 90 240

Motivation
Arizona RB Emmitt Smith returns to Dallas. It's the first time the NFL's leading rusher has played in Big D since he joined the Cardinals. The Cowboys cut him during the off-season

The Cowboys are coming off a successful tour of New Jersey- a 35-32 overtime victory against the Giants, a bye week, and a victory over the Jets 17-6. The Cardinals are coming off a 37-13 road thumping by the Rams.

Opinion
Vegas thinks this will be a higher scoring game then most think. Not because either offense is so good, but because the Cardinals defense is so bad.

In the Cardinals last seven games on the road they have given up 37 points at St. Louis, 42 at Detroit, 37 at Denver, 30 at St. Louis, 49 at Kansas City, 38 at Philadelphia, and 38 at San Francisco. Arizona's defense would have gone alone over the total in six of the seven games. Arizona's allowed more than 30 points in each of their last seven road games. Now they're getting banged up. A couple of starters are questionable; DT Wendell Bryant and LB Raynoch Thompson may not play.

Arizona's run defense had done a decent job in stopping the run, but if they do stack the line Dallas will just throw the football. The Cowboys have a lot of weapons at wide receiver. WRs Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant, and Joey Galloway have been tearing up the league. Galloway has had back-to-back 100-yard games. The sportsbooks don't think the general public has quite yet come to the conclusion that this Cowboy's offense (team) is really very good.

Arizona can move the football, but can't stop turning it over. They are -10 in turnovers thus far this season. If they turn it over in Dallas territory, it will be a low scoring game. If they misplace the ball in their own half, Dallas will go for the jugular. Given that Arizona did convert a single third down last week and QB Jeff Blake only threw for only 88 yards, it's more likely they'll make their mistakes in their own territory.

San Diego (0-4) at Jacksonville (0-4)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 42

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 31
JAX 17, SD 14

Trends
No recent regular season meeting between these opponents.

Motivation
How about winning a game? Both teams are winless and this may be their only chance at a victory for some time.

Opinion
A great gnashing of teeth at the counter in this one. No one's betting this game around town and no one really cares enough to break down the match-up.

If there is an edge, the handicappers think it belongs to the Jaguars. Jacksonville has the better defense and they've gotten WR Jimmy Smith back after a suspension. If there's one thing Jacksonville does well, it's stop the opposing running game. They can't put any pressure on the opposing QB, but in this case, it doesn't really seem to matter. Even with WR David Boston on the field, the sportsbooks think the Chargers don't have enough passing game to prevail. The bookies like Jacksonville to win a low scoring game.

Washington (3-1) at Philadelphia (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 40

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 41
PHI 24, WAS 17

Trends
        WAS     PHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/15/2002 WAS 21 PHI 34 292 86 206 320 110 210
9/16/2002 PHI 37 WAS 7 179 89 90 451 168 283
12/16/2001 PHI 20 WAS 6 362 155 207 287 63 224
11/25/2001 WAS 13 PHI 3 240 155 85 186 94 92
11/26/2000 PHI 23 WAS 20 326 44 282 289 171 118
10/8/2000 WAS 17 PHI 14 407 141 266 275 79 196

The Eagles have owned this series. They have won seven of the last eight meetings.

Motivation
Big game within the division for both teams. Both Washington and Philadelphia are coming off a victory.

Opinion
Vegas has noted that Washington has not played well against divisional opponents, while the Eagles have a great record against the rest of the NFC East. Under Spurrier, the Redskins are 1-6 against the NFC East opponents, while the Eagles, under Head Coach Andy Reid, are 28-2 against the spread against divisional foes.

Philly needs this game, as they remain on the bottom of the division. Vegas thinks they should be motivated to win this game by ten points.

They will get there by attacking the corners of the Redskins defense any forcing Washington's questionable offensive line to stay disciplined and pick up the rush. Vegas expects that the Eagles will blitz on 70-80 % of the Redskins' plays. It worked last week, so why not keep doing it until someone stops them? The Washington running game should struggle against the Eagles defensive tackles. Philadelphia has one of the better interior defenses in the league.

Detroit (1-3) at San Francisco (1-3)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =37
SF 20, DET 17

Trends
        DET     SF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/4/2001 DET 13 SF 21 131 62 69 427 145 282

Motivation
Lions Head Coach Steve Mariucci returns to SF. Given the internal problems and slow start for the 49ers, their front office would like nothing better than to beat their former head coach this week.

Opinion
The wise guys think the 49ers are their own worse enemies. With their much-publicized problems on the offensive line, you would think that San Francisco would be running the football. They're averaging 132 yards per game on the ground, so there's absolutely no reason to be dropping back to pass. The handicappers have noticed that every time SF seems to get into a rhythm on offense, WR Terrell Owens gets frustrated because he's not getting the ball, and the 49ers start throwing to appease him.

Vegas were bewildered that the temperamental WR wasn't suspended this week after another public incident. Every one of them would have money on the 49ers if they had. They believe that the other players on the squad would welcome a coach or someone in the front office if they would just step-up and take Owens down a notch or two. But, that didn't happen again this week, and now they're concerned that frustration is reaching the boiling point in the locker room and the coaches and front office have lost the rest of the team.

The wise guys expect Detroit to come out and double Owens. If the 49ers run the ball, or if Owens doesn't get involved early, he may be frustrated, pout, and then the 'Niners will start throwing into coverage instead of taking what the Lions defense is giving them. If that happens, Detroit has a good chance of winning this game.

Cleveland (1-3) at Pittsburgh (2-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 42

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 44
PIT 27, CLE 17

Trends
        CLE     PIT  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
1/5/2003 CLE 33 PIT 36 447 38 409 432 89 343
11/3/2002 PIT 23 CLE 20 193 36 157 391 136 255
9/29/2002 CLE 13 PIT 16 245 123 122 358 93 265
1/6/2002 CLE 7 PIT 28 173 68 105 376 221 155
11/11/2001 PIT 15 CLE 12 187 74 113 428 247 181
10/22/2000 CLE 0 PIT 22 104 49 55 248 143 105
9/17/2000 PIT 20 CLE 23 377 61 316 346 159 187

PIT has won five of the last six and five straight meetings.

Motivation
Big rivalry game in the AFC North. Neither the team, nor their fans like the other very much.

Opinion
Everyone around town likes the Steelers this week. History in this series is on their side and they're situation is better than the Browns right now. Pittsburgh is coming off a loss to the Titans in a game where they led 10-0 while the Browns will be kicking themselves for losing to the Bengals at home.

Inserting QB Tim Couch didn't spark Cleveland's offense, so this week's rumor is that the Browns are hoping QB Kelly Holcombe will be able to play this weekend. That uncertainty, as well as manner in which Cleveland played last week, has the bettors swearing off Cleveland. Another interesting tidbit is the history of the runningbacks in this series. Cleveland's have done nothing; the Browns got less than 40 yards rushing in each of their last two match-ups last season, while the Steelers runningbacks played well. If the Browns can't run, and with their offensive line they probably won't be able to, the wise guys think they'll struggle to put up points in this game.

Indianapolis (4-0) at Tampa Bay (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 37.5

Predicted Outcome
Total Points =30
TB 17, IND 13

Trends
No recent regular season meetings between these teams.

Motivation
Colts HC Tony Dungy returns to Tampa where he was dumped after he failed to get the team to the Super Bowl.

Opinion
The Colts have been out-gained on the ground in three of their four games. They've jumped out to big leads in two of their games and they still couldn't run. RB Edgerrin James may not play, but even when he does, he's not that effective. Indy doesn't have that big back that can pound away at that defensive line. The wise guys don't expect that the Colts can run this week.

To make matters worse, Tampa Bay just doesn't give up passing yards. They've allowed just 106 passing yards against per game. If the Colts can't run the ball, and they don't have that big back that's been effective against the Buc's in the past, they're going to struggle on offense in this in this game. The handicappers think that this could be another low scoring, defensive game that might be settled by a turnover.